Marie Howe —
The Poetry of Ordinary Time

An enchanting hour of poetry drawing on the ways family and religion shape our lives. Marie Howe works and plays with her Catholic upbringing, the universal drama of family, and the ordinary time that sustains us. The moral life, she says, is lived out in what we say as much as what we do — and so words have a power to save us.

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Guests

is the State Poet of New York and teaches writing at Sarah Lawrence College. She’s published three collections of poetry: What the Living Do, The Good Thief, and The Kingdom of Ordinary Time.

Selected Poems

The Poet Reads Her Poems

You can read and listen to all the poetry Marie Howe recited for us during our interview. Enjoy and share them with others:

» Magdelene—The Seven Devils
» Annunciation
» Prayer
» Hurry
» The Gate
» The Meadow

Selected Video

In the Room with Marie Howe (video)

Watch Krista's unedited conversation with the acclaimed poet in the "old library" at the College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, Minnesota. It's an intimate 90 minutes of discussion about faith and relationships, the role of language in our contemporary lives, and ways to move forward.

About the Image

An art project chalked on the sidewalk in the Bowery District of Manhattan reads: "Consider for a moment what happiness means to you and step inside the box; it could be anywhere you want, really."

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49Reflections

Reflections

What a great show. Thanks for bringing this beautiful lady into our being!

LIstening to your interview with Marie Howe is so thought-provoking from her reading of The Meadow, to your question about real time to "This" to the 140 character tweets as poetry. These are the questions of our time. Thank you so much.

Thank you for introducing this poet to your program. Another great program.

This was a delightful. I felt like I was blessed to listen in on a private conversation about life and our challenges in living it. Our "reverence" for technology ( being drawn to stare at our iPhones all day) is similar to any icon or being we revere, we need a willingness to approach with awareness and balance. Each weekend as I do my chores ( gardening, cleaning, etc) I am enriched as I listen to "On Being" , Darma talks, or TED radio hour. The access to these via technology actually offers me respite from the hurried rest of my day and encourages me to stop and just be.

language is not at all we have left for action. poetry is very inspiring indidivdually but also evanescent. tim berners lee made the moral decision to take action and not try to control his insight and allowed the web to be born. words are not nearly that powerful to change the world. engineers and software programmers of algorithms change for the world for the better

The program I just listened to, i with Marie Howe, was unbelieveably great!!! Did not know of her before, so I am thankful you had her on! I will be digging in to her works and just learning more about her, she seems awesome!! Oh, how I could relate to the conversation. I hope you have her on again soon!! Thank you, great program!!

Mary Magdalene ... Oh my gosh. What a poem.
Great interview. Thanks so much.

I invite the poet to return to the Catholic Church - ever ancient, ever new.

I would also invite Krista to invite on her program a Catholic intellectual - George Weigel, or Father Rutler, or Father Mitch Pacwa, for example. Thanks!

I am so happy to have heard your discussion with Marie Howe. I loved her stories about growing up Catholic. She is a wonderful poet and beautiful woman. She has changed the way I feel about poetry. I can not wait to read her books. Fantastic

I'm sorry I dn't know where I've been hiding or what I've been reading, watching or listening to- but I heard your show Kristen, for the 1st time today, and heard Marie talk and read a few poems, and now I am a fan of both of you. It was a beautifully honest interview that touched me. Thanks.

Marie Howe's interview with Krista Tippet got me to think about the relationship we have with language. How do we are troubled describing the seemingly mundane with the fact that it is the mundane that is our lives. The stories that Howe tells of her students, not being able to describe what they see everyday is typical of my generation, I think. We are always told to, "stop and smell the roses," and yet rarely do or know how to. I think what Howe is trying to illustrate is that the only way to deal with humanity is through art. It alone has the feelings and imagery to describe existence that is living and dying, simultaneously.

Ordinary time seems to be the everyday. This everyday is powerful if we live in the now or live in the moment. Howe also showed the power of Alcohol on a family of origin. It can create havoc, as she states. When I was getting sober I went to a new age treatment center, devoted to the idea that if you lived constantly in the moment, you would not have to seek your drug of choice. At first glance it seemed ridiculous but as time went by learning the thought patterns sobriety seemed possible. It is called the Health Realization approach to sobriety. Not only did it help me become sober it changed the way I look at everyday "ordinary time."

Poetry is often difficult for people to understand. The main reason is, I feel, that we do not want to take the time necessary in order to unpack the poem. Whether it is because of the go-go world we live in, or the screen watching we are apparent slaves to; we are losing touch with our everyday, our mundane, our ordinary time. It takes great artists like Marie Howe to point that out to us, refocusing our everyday, and allowing us to "stop and smell the roses."

I listened to the On Being podcast of The Poetry of Ordinary Time by Marie Howe. It was by far the best On Being podcast that I’ve listened to during this semester. She comes from a large catholic family and mentions that they have issues just like most any other family. She writes poetry to talk about how she sees the world and how her family fits into the world. I seemed to be able to relate to her stories. One story was about her brother who passed away. She said she used poetry to deal with how she felt. My twin sister passed away ten years ago. Last semester I had taken a creative writing class. The first weeks of the class were about writing poetry. It was one of the best classes I’ve taken. I learned that I could be good at poetry. The words didn’t have to rhyme. I didn’t have to use a million metaphors and descriptions. I just had to write. It was at that time that I was able to put down on paper some of my feelings that I couldn’t express out loud. My feelings were deep, deeper than I ever thought possible. And writing poetry was so therapeutic. Listening to this podcast reminded me how poetry can be so liberating and free. Poetry can be whatever you want it to be. It doesn’t have to be deep in meaning. It can just be a statement. I am not one to write long detailed paragraphs explaining something three different ways so that everyone can understand it or so that I fill a whole page up. Poetry seems to fit my writing style. She also talked about she has her students write about things that they see each day. They can’t use descriptions or comparison. It reminded me of mindfulness and how essential being mindful is in today’s world. We seem to get so wrapped up in everything these days that we don’t take the time to “just see”. I am glad I listened to this podcast. It is one that I will listen to over and over again.

In my work I frequently deal with those who have been impacted by sudden death. Last week, sitting in my office, I suggested to a beautiful, young woman that she search on line for one of my favorite poems, "What the Living Do". She had lost her brother. Later she thanked me. Then, yesterday morning at 6:00 a.m., there was Marie Howe in our bedroom reading to us. Thank you. I will soon listen again.

Thank you for this wonderful piece. She says that poetry cannot be paraphrased of translated. Despite all said to the contrary, she is correct.

I was hurrying, but I listened.
Then I cried.
Then I smiled.

This was a fantastic conversation with so much to take away. I felt like it was a discussion occurring at my kitchen table. Thank you so much.

this was a very good show. I like poetry& especially earthy spiritual expression.

Marie Howe's interview with Krista Tippet got me to think about the relationship we have with language. How do we have trouble with describing the seemingly mundane when in fact that it is the mundane that is our lives. The stories that Howe tells of her students, not being able to describe what they see everyday is typical of my generation, I think. We are always told to, "stop and smell the roses," and yet rarely do or know how to. I think what Howe is trying to illustrate is that the only way to deal with humanity is through art. It alone has the feelings and imagery to describe an existence that is living and dying, simultaneously.

Ordinary time seems to be the everyday. This everyday is powerful if we live in the now or live in the moment. Howe showed the power Alcohol can have on a family of origin. It can create havoc, as she states. When I was getting sober I went to a new age treatment center, devoted to the idea that if you lived constantly in the moment, you would not have to seek your drug of choice. At first glance it seemed ridiculous but as time went by learning the thought patterns sobriety seemed possible. It is called the Health Realization approach to sobriety. Not only did it help me become sober it changed the way I look at everyday "ordinary time."

Poetry is often difficult for people to understand. The main reason is, I feel, that we do not want to take the time necessary in order to unpack the poem. Whether it is because of the go-go world we live in, or the screen watching we are apparent slaves to; we are losing touch with our everyday, our mundane, our ordinary time. It takes great artists like Marie Howe to point that out to us, refocusing our everyday, and allowing us to "stop and smell the roses."

This episode, like so many On Being episodes, broke my heart and senses wide open. It was really a gift... I find myself unable to stop thinking about the exercise: write down 10 observations of every day life, no interpretations or metaphor. And not being able to? I have a 3 year old and a 1 year old and this is the kind of example of "life in the now and future" that keeps me awake at night. And am I setting a good example? No. But this show has subtly, richly, lovingly and exquisitely drawn me back into the abyss of life, love and art. Thank you Krista. The dialogue was- as usual but even more so- pure poetry.

Ordinary time seems to be the most difficult aspect of our lives to describe. And although it is difficult to describe it is what comprises our life. Marie Howe seems to be looking for ways to describe the world through her poetry and through her journey I learn about my mundane ordinary time.

“Our heart is restless until it rests in You.” Saint Augustine of Hippo Early Church Father and Doctor of the Church

Reading an article about the birth of Jesus really had me thinking, as i have never paid much attention about it. There are so many questions surrounding the birth of Jesus, starting from how he was conceived. We see that Jesus's mother Mary conceived in a way that most people won't understand, i.e. not the normal way that most of us would expect, and that is way far beyond our understanding. But at the end of it , this was all God's work and we know that He usually does His things in a way that we can't understand most of the time.

When you look at the Birth of Jesus, it signified the Beginning of salvation, it signified improved relationship between God and his people, it signified salvation of God's people, and most importantly it was the bridge that we human kind needed to make it to God. God Himself makes it clear that whoever wanna see Him has to go through Jesus, and that we should listen to him. If you read Ephesians 2:18, it says that, "For through him we both have access by one spirit unto the father." Jesus was born to an ordinary couple, Mary and Joseph the carpenter so that people cannot be afraid of him, but be able to freely communicate with him.

As Jesus being born to Mary as a virgin, it doesn't surprise me at all. because God wanted his one and only son to be brougth into this world by a pure woman, He has good reasons why He wanted it that way. Personally that wouldn't bother me at all as what is important is looking at the big picture and that is Jesus coming into this world and his work; teaching, healing, and forgiving sin and unltimately his death. In general the birth of Jesus was the best thing that ever happened to mankind, as without it we wouldn't be here.

This On Being was by far my favorite thus far. Krista Tippet interviews Marie Howe in one of the most intriguing hours on On being in my opinion.

Marie Howe takes us through her upbringing as a member of a fairly large catholic family. She describes the feeling of how different life is now compared to when she was growing up. She used to live in a huge house with no privacy and lots of siblings where now she lives in a little apartment with her daughter she adopted. She never imagined herself as a poet until after her father died she needed to find a way to cope and "learn something" Marie completely amazes me when she reads her poems, especially the one of her brother, it really makes you realize the Here and now. She also talks about how poems and poetry are counterspells for everyday life.

This interview was amazing in so many ways because it really does get you to think about how we need to take time and find happiness. With technology and always being connected to TV and phones. We need to take a time to find our happiness. I really like the story This On Being was by far my favorite thus far. Krista Tippet interviews Marie Howe in one of the most intrieging hours on On being in my opinion.

Marie Howe takes us through her unbringing as a member of a fairly large catholic family. She describes the feeling of how different life is now compared to when she was growing up. She used to live in a huge house with no privacy and lots of siblings where now she lives in a little apartment with her daughter she adopted. She never imagined herself as a poet until after her father died she needed to find a way to cope and "learn something" Marie completely amazes me when she reads her poems, especially the one of her brother, it really makes you realize the Here and now. She also talks about how poems and poetry are counter spells for everyday life.

This interview was amazing in so many ways because it really does get you to think about how we need to take time and find happiness. With technology and always being connected to TV and phones. We need to take a time to find our happiness. I really like the story about in new york she saw all of these arrows in chalk saying "Happiness this way!" then one day there was a circle that said "happiness here" and people were lining up to stand in it for a moment. That right there is the thing that we have to do. We have to find our happiness and enjoy it. about in new york she saw all of these arrows in chalk saying "Happiness this way!" then one day there was a circle that said "happiness here" and people were lining up to stand in it for a moment. That right there is the thing that we have to do. We have to find our happiness and enjoy it.

Just want to be sure you listen to the unedited version...2 hours! Unbelievable interview! I agree, truly the BEST one in years!

I have been so inspired by the ideas, compassion and bearuty of 'being together', sharing the ordinary experiences with such simplicity and reverence, it has renewed my sometimes irritable self with others.
I was looking for the book The Totality of Dreams mentioned in the interview, is this the correct tital? I would love to read it.
thank you

I sink into the lushness of your being, you two, being the beauty of relationship there on the long time in the studio. I love each drop and if i had it all I would have loved hearing you pick up your bags and the foot steps walking out the door.

Another way of "staring at that little rectangle of light: is we are not alone, there is another, and another, and another sharing our story as they share theirs. It is doing what is happening.. we merging into the fluidity of the all. No longer with "identity" just beings in the merge, the soup pot of the world, of all of us communicating, sharing like wild winds, wild wings beating their in the little rectange of light.

I hope Marie writes her play, OMG she was born into a play to be written. And I hope Krista you are able to write the imperfect book, number one of others.

My experience of writing prose poetry, is to write 2 minutes, 20 minutes, just a little jewel or until the flow gets to a grind, then wash the dishes, makes some calls, I always come back to freshness to write a little more. Back and forth, works well for me.. that way I get things done, on the paper and in the kitchen of my life. It is the woman's way not to sit in cloistured from our life, nose to the keys trying to beat out so many pages in so many hours.

A fantastic show and I am so indebted to you, Krista, for introducing me to Marie Howe. I thought you'd be interested to know that when I went into my local bookstore (the wonderful Three Lives in Manhattan) and purchased Howe's "What the Living Do" and inquired about another one of her books, the bookseller said to me "What is going on with Marie Howe? There's been a run on her books?" I explained about the show and she said that in the past (barely) week she'd sold three of her books (which in poetry is definitely a "run"!).

Just wanted to let you know how much reach you have...Thank you for an always-inspiring, meaningful show.

Krista and Marie,
The following sentences from your interview caused my jaw to drop.

"Well language is almost all we have left of action in the modern world. I mean unless we're in Syria, you know, or we're in Iraq. But for many of us, action has become what we say. The moral life is lived out in what we say more often than what we do."

Are you saying that there is no action left in the world, no meaningful action, that words have replaced actions and that the moral life is carried on through our words rather than our actions?

I guess I'm feeling both curious and a little terrified, though perhaps I misunderstand what you were trying to say.
Robert

This was one of my favorite shows, and that's saying a lot. When Krista asked why we find it so difficult to be with things as they are and Marie replied "...it's because they hurt," the truth of that sank deeply into me. I've wanted to offer something to your show for a long time, and today I wrote the following poem which feels related to the resonances of Marie's words. I hope you enjoy.

We feel the threads of love,
and they pull us,
and sometimes we become so entangled
as to lose the feel
of whatever we're weaving alltogether.

But there is promise in their tension,
promise in the sensation of resistance we feel
between life as-it-is
and the murmured hummings
our love-threads tremble into our skin
as they wrap around our body.

That tension is potentiality,
transmuted into kinetic becoming
everytime we take a step
in love's direction.

As we dance with our threads -
as their hum is ignored or invited,
their insistence rejected or responded to -
let us become conscious of our choosings and trust,
if we have chosen love,
in the time it takes
for tension to play itself out.

Perhaps we don't move at all
but simply grow into master-weavers,
incorporating love's every suggestion
into a new component of our cardigan,
turtleneck, leg warmer, or nana blanket...
for these movements of the heart,
as grand as we may try to make them sound,
are everyday ordinary
and require no dramatic upheaval of self.

Unless they do.

As always
it's 'yes-and,'
and it's about
what's happening right now.

Right now,
faith is happening.
Right now I choose to believe
that through dawning self-acceptance
and patient application of truth,
what lives within me
will find expression
in our shared reality.

Right now
there is a stillness of perception
which has invited the otherwise fleeting moments
of a work-seeking Wednesday
to fully arrive and meet me here
and the majesty of simple, inconsequential things
quite takes my breath away.

Right now,
it cannot be otherwise
and any moment,
allowed deeply enough,
must throb with the same selfless love of this moment,
which brings tears to my eyes,
and silence to my pen.

Love this show. Very enchanting. Marie Howe wondered what the first poem might have been and I just wanted to mention that according to the Bible, Genesis 2:23 was the first poem, spoken by Adam about his wife Eve: "This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called 'woman,' for she was taken out of man." Indeed it is "inter-relational, incantatory and its roots can never be fully pulled out from sacred ground", as she mentioned.

All alone
Adrift at sea
Here I sit
This tiger and me
A dangerous position
It surely be
My life I lead
The life of p

Your face I sought
And found in the sea
The love of my youth
Was all around Thee
Can I forgive myself
As now I see
And will I survive
The bletting of me

This was a lovely introduction to Marie Howe. Is the Mary Magdalene poem published anywhere? I found myself holding my breath during it. Incredible.

Listening to Marie Howe speak about losing a beloved husband is like gently smoothing a healing balm on my heart.

I work night shift and am usually very tired as I drive home. I love tuning in and feeling home when I sit outside my house for the final 10 minutes listening to the show. As an aside, I bought an iPhone finally parting ways with my flip T9 phone. I absolutely miss having only 140 characters to be as witty, insightful, silly or plain insane as possible. Enjoy your day.

Two times, during the course of this interview, I had to wipe tears from my eyes and push my heart down from my throat. That simple words might have so much light within them. They rival the noonday sun. Thank you for this gift.

Inspiring. I woke up to hear Marie Howe reading her poem about Mary Magdalene. I had planned to spend the day working on a new series of paintings based on the stations of the cross and also the Mater Dolorosa. That poem caused me to jump out of bed, ready to start at once! Thank you so much. I will listen to it again now.

Julyan Davis, Asheville, NC

Thank you for sharing this beautiful woman with the world. Blessings!

What I've been waiting for! This...
Heart cracked open

Just love this show. Thank you Ms. Tippett. Congrats on winning the well-deserve National Humanities Medal!

I first heard and read of Marie Howe in the periodical, "Spirituality and Health" and wanted to know more of her then. I believe in the power of language yet coupled with action, this is what the world will always need. I do love her insights and her skill with language. "Aha" moment: Art gives expression to the fact that we are living and dying at the same time.

How wonderful...crying as I stayed in my car, driving to the UU service in Louisiana on the 9th anniversary of Katrina. I got chills listening and was blessed by this show--letting me divinely here at the right place right time. I was downloaded with intention to write again...be open...felt supported and not alone in how I feel about life...THANK YOU!

Krista, what words to choose...Marie Howe & you in conversation. You brought me back to me. Thank you for bringing light to my day. Gratefully, Pat

Marie Howe speaks with the sparkle of a marvelous teacher. If I could, I would drop everything to be inside her class to see the shimmer of her mind's eye whose light, I already know, would change my life. Still, I confess to having shame that I could have been so much more, much more alive. And still, once this program is gone, I might search for her book but I am inadequate to the task of claiming my true self fully without regret. Tell her for me that my own potential may blossom far too late a season but her poetry at least in this moment took me away. I won't forget that and thank you for it.

Loved this interview... she was at College St. Benedict, my alma mater. Wish I had learned from her during those difficult college years when the pace and the anxiety about the pace and the unsure footing of young adulthood kept me from being truly present. She's right that poetry really does give voice to things that hurt or are frightening.

Your interview with Marie Howe was an electrifying wake up to the ordinary in which I live. Those Seven Devils, I know them and weep when those particular and well-chosen words give them form and call them out. Thank you for this interview and this radio show.

Great Show and poet! Some years back i had thought of giving a friend going through a medical/health issue a book of poetry as a way of bringing him back to a state of optimism and hope. It worked! Thanks Krista for all your work in the way you are helping bring the wisdom of the ages and its inherent spirituality back into our world.

I love Marie Howe! Her conversation is so evocative and full of life. I thought over and over again about her stories of her family, the men who came home to her neighborhood to die of AIDS, her perception of mortality. There's so much she has to say and teach us. I need to buy some of her poetry. Thank you, On Being, for engaging this singular woman in a remarkable conversation.

This was wonderful. I found myself assembling Howe's reflections on poetry. Into this.
*
Poetry holds, it holds what can’t be
said
Great poetry holds the mystery
in a basket of words
that
feels inevitable
Poetry has a trance-like quality to it
still
it has the quality of a spell
Still
This is what we all need to walk around with
a handful of counter spells

Poetry, when you think of its roots
is that
it’s interrelational
it’s incantatory
It feels like its roots can never be pulled
from sacred ground.

Yes